Even though my family and I compost, we still waste a considerable amount of food. This became quite clear as we all worked together to fill a large wheelbarrow of food scraps we had been storing in our freezer for months. One of my goals for the year ahead is to find more purpose for the food scraps we are tossing aside. I have come up with a few strategies for doing so and thought that many of you might be interested in a little eco-friendly challenge too!
Strategies For Reducing Food Waste
1) Embrace "Ugly" Food
When shopping for vegetables at the farmers market, my family and I often keep an eye out for the "ugly" ones. We hunt for oddly-shaped carrots, creature-like potatoes, and tomatoes bearing a slight bruise. I have never been disappointed with any of our imperfect selections and believe they add a little something special to our meals. As we strive not to judge books by their covers, perhaps we should cut our produce some slack too.
Our local grocery store has a cart stocked with discounted overly ripe or blemished produce. We always make a point to stop here and have walked away with some pretty great finds that likely would be trashed by day's end.
We have also enjoyed shopping from Misfits Market, a box subscription that provides reclaimed fruits and vegetables, or misfits, to consumers. The majority of the produce rescued by Misfits have cosmetic defect issues and we've been able to use them all. It has also been a blast opening the box up with the kiddos and sharing the mission of saving imperfect produce with them.
Related: Composting with Worms: Sounds Gross, but Kids Love It
2) Tap into Culinary Creativity
Do you roast beets yet toss out the beet greens? Or cook just the broccoli florets only to pitch the stem? Here are some ideas for using up more of your fruits and veggies:
- Prepare a pesto with beet greens or carrot tops.
- Include both broccoli florets and stems in a cream-of-broccoli soup.
- Cook up an omelet with radish tops and onions this spring.
- Add celery leaves and/or fennel fronds to salad for a beautiful and tasty garnish.
- Save veggie scraps, such as stems from greens and herbs (ideally organic) to make your own vegetable broth. You can even make a "milky" broth with used corn cobs.
- Pack pineapple core crisps in your child's lunchbox.
- Use fruit scraps to infuse water this spring and summer (ideas include strawberry tops, fruit peels etc.,).
- Pan-fry potato skins and serve alongside eggs.
- Bring along watermelon rind pickles to family gatherings this summer.
- Zest citrus peels before tossing or composting.
Storing fruits and vegetables properly can certainly help them last longer. Consider this tip too: If you tend to forget about the fruits and vegetables that you have placed in the fridge, keep a list of them nearby. Include meal and serving ideas alongside each item too so you don't forget to snag something when the time for meal prep arises.
Food Storage Tips For Reducing Food Waste
- Avocados: Store in a paper bag at room temperature; ripen more quickly by placing an apple in the bag.
- Asparagus: Trim the ends from the stems; place standing in a glass of water in the fridge and store for up to 3 days.
- Beets: Remove beet greens before storing as the greens take moisture from the beet itself-store washed beets in an open container with a wet paper towel on top; place the greens in an airtight container.
- Broccoli: Wrap in a damp paper towel before placing it in the fridge.
- Cabbage: Cabbage loses moisture after a week, so use it as soon as possible. Can store on the counter for up to a week.
- Carrots: Cut the tops off to keep fresh longer; Place them in a closed container wrapped in a damp paper towel.
- Celery: Keep in the fridge wrapped in tinfoil and will last for a few weeks.
- Cucumber: Wrap in a moist towel and keep in the fridge.
- Garlic: Store in a cool, dark place.
- Greens: Keep in an airtight container with a damp cloth.
- Green beans: Store in a loosely covered container along with a moist cloth.
- Lettuce: Remove from the stem; store covered with a damp paper towel in a container that allows for airflow (in the fridge).
- Okra: Use quickly after purchase; store with a dry paper towel (okra does not like moisture) in an airtight container
- Onions: Store in a cool, dark and dry place. Do not stack.
- Peppers: Green bell peppers stay fresher longer than red or orange. Store for one week in the refrigerator and then slice up and freeze for up to 10 months.
- Potatoes: Store in a cool, dark and dry place.
- Radishes: Remove the greens and store them in an airtight container with a damp paper towel.
- Spinach: Store loose in an open container in the crisper; spinach loves to stay cool!
- Tomatoes: Store for up to two weeks on the kitchen counter. Place in a paper bag with an apple to speed up ripening.
- Apples: Store on a cool counter for up to two weeks.
- Bananas: Remove bananas from the stem; they ripen more quickly when connected.
- Berries: Store, refrigerated in a single layer because they are fragile; do not wash until ready to use.
- Cherries: Store in an airtight container; do not wash until ready to use.
- Grapes: Store in the fridge; do not wash until ready to use.
- Lemons and limes: Store on the countertop for up to one week; allow plenty of air to get to them, so keep them separated or in an aerated bowl. After a week, store in the refrigerator for up to one month.
- Melons: Uncut, store in a cool, dry place. Once cut, store in an open container in the fridge.
- Peaches: Refrigerate only when fully ripe.
- Pears: Often fragile; use quickly. Store on a cool counter; place in a paper bag with an apple to speed up ripening.
- Oranges: Stay juicer at room temperature.
- Plums: Once ripe, keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Watermelon: Uncut, at room temperature for 7-10 days; once cut store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.